Rome (AFP) - Pope Francis on Sunday warned of the "Balkanisation" of Europe in the wake of Britain's shock vote to quit the EU and urged the bloc to chart a new way forward by giving member states greater freedoms.
"We have to come up with a new kind of Union," the pontiff told reporters on a plane heading back to Rome after a controversial visit to Armenia, as the European Union grappled with the unprecedented task of having to negotiate a divorce from a member state.
"There is something that's not working in this massive, heavy Union. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water," Francis said.
He warned that places like Scotland and the Spanish region of Catalonia could push for "secession" following the seismic Brexit vote, which he said could lead to "the Balkanisation" of Europe.
He said the bloc could recover its strength by being open to "creativity and healthy disunity.... That is to say, to give more independence, more freedom to countries in the European Union".
Speaking to reporters on his way to Yerevan on Friday as news of Britain's referendum outcome came in, Francis had said Europe had a duty to look after all its citizens.
"The people's will has been expressed," he said. "This requires of us great responsibility to ensure the well-being of the people of Great Britain, as well as well-being and coexistence of the whole European continent."